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ADHD Not Just For Kids Anymore: Adult ADHD
August 12th 2005

Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder treatments

Terry Matlen

Up until the mid 1980's, it was widely believed by physicians and psychologists that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was outgrown by the time a child hit adolescence.  Surprise!

Though many clinicians still hold on to this belief, it is now accepted by many in the medical community that childhood ADHD does indeed continue into adulthood. As a matter of fact, the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, describes just that.

Hyper Henry Hawkins in 4th grade, who was unable to sit still in Mrs. Jones' homeroom, became Mr. Hawkins, who at age 35, is unable to sit through business meetings. His legs kick under the table while his eyes dart around at the different posters on the wall. The doodles on his notepaper keep his fingers busy. And...he doesn't hear a word the presenter is saying.


Yes, ADHD is alive and well, living in adult bodies. 

It is estimated that between 5-7%- or more- of all children suffer from attention deficit disorder. But what happens when these children grow up? Some are lucky enough to have learned to compensate for their poor attention span, impulsivity and distractibility by finding a good career match. Others married spouses who have been able to help structure their home lives. 

And yet others are still struggling, trying to figure out why they cannot seem to work up to their potential. Worse, many adults with undiagnosed ADHD find themselves living a life of shame, poor self esteem, and worse.


All adults have some symptoms of ADHD. Some of these are:

  • Distractibility

  • Impulsivity

  • Inattention

  • Difficulty staying on task

  • Having many projects going on at one time and rarely completing any of them

  • Irritability

Difficulty falling asleep and difficulty waking up ...but when an adult has a significant amount of symptoms that impair his daily living, then he may indeed have attention deficit disorder.


Read, read...and read some more. ADHD can mimic other disorders, like depression, anxiety, and some medical problems like hypothyroidism. And ADHD can co-exist with other disorders. If after your reading you still wonder if you may, indeed, have ADHD, then you may want to consider going for an evaluation.



First, check with your medical doctor to make sure you aren't having ADHD symptoms due to a medical problem. Talk to him/her about the possibility of ADHD. Chances are, he may not know enough about it to offer a diagnosis. Therefore, consider going to a mental health clinician who has done extensive work with adult ADHD.


There are a few comprehensive organizations that focus on ADHD.  ADD Consults (www.addconsults.com) has a directory of professionals who work with people with AD/HD. There are also articles, support chats and more.

ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Assoc.) can help you get the information you need. Their focus is on supporting and educating young adults, adults and families with ADHD.

CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) is another excellent resource. These organizations can point you in the right direction for helping you find an ADHD specialist. Also, consider contacting your closest teaching hospital and see if they have an ADHD clinic. If not, check with their department of psychology or psychiatry for names of clinicians in your area.



Find a support group! Read some more about this disorder! ADHD is certainly not a death sentence. Treatment can be very successful. Some people go through a period of sadness, even depression, thinking about the "lost years" of not knowing what it was that stopped them from moving ahead in life. Others are ecstatic that they now have the answer to what had been a roadblock for them.

For many, short term counseling is very helpful in putting things in perspective. One may need to go through a process of grieving, even, to get to the point of then moving ahead.

ADHD Coaching, too, is a wonderful way to help an ADHD adult get on track with their daily lives.

Many benefit from medications that help a person to attend, concentrate, and stay focused. Many of my clients, once treated for their ADHD, are astounded that they can read an entire book for the first time in their lives.

For all the Hyper Henrys in this world, there is hope!

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By Terry Matlen MSW, ACSW
Terry is a psychotherapist and consultant in Birmingham, Michigan specializing in AD/HD in adults. She is the author of "Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD".

Terry is the director of www.addconsults.com, an online AD/HD eClinic and www.myADDstore.com . She serves on the board of directors of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA).  A popular presenter at local and national conferences, Terry has a passion for raising awareness of the special challenges for women with AD/HD and the unique issues parents face when both they and their children have AD/HD.

She can be reached via her website at www.addconsults.com

E-mail Terry

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Keywords and Misspellings: ADD ADHD atention defecit dissorder



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